Should We Play Music Behind People Praying?

stock image hands palying a full sized piano keyboard

Someone in my church recently sent me an email asking why we play music behind different portions of the Sunday meeting (prayers, baptisms, readings, etc.). It’s a good question. We can be influenced by our musically addicted culture, as well as our traditions and practices, to believe it’s impossible for God’s Spirit to move in people’s hearts apart from music. That kind of thinking makes music a mediator rather than a means. God can use music to do his work. But he doesn’t need music to do his work.

So the direct answer to the question, “Should we play music behind people praying?” is “not necessarily.” It can easily be mistaken for emotional manipulation. And in some cases, it IS emotional manipulation. It can be distracting (which I’ll cover in a moment). But because something is done poorly or for the wrong reasons is no reason do dismiss it entirely. The right response to misuse is not disuse but proper use.

So this was part of my response to my friend:

In Scripture there often seems to be a connection between music being played and the Spirit moving in people’s hearts. See 1 Chron. 25:1, 1 Sam. 10:5-6, 2 Kings 3:14-16, also Eph. 5:18-19. Music that’s played well can help connect different parts of the meeting, emphasize aspects of what’s being spoken, or soften people’s hearts to hear more intently. But it isn’t biblically mandated and doesn’t have to accompany every time someone is speaking. And if it’s done poorly, it can be distracting. But I think it can serve in the ways mentioned above.

I want to take a moment to unpack what I mean by music being “done poorly.” Here are a few examples of supportive music that can become distracting.

1. Music that’s too loud. Obviously this creates problems for those trying to focus on someone speaking. Often, though, the fault is with the front of house mixer, rather than the individual playing.
2. Music that’s too creative or complex. Playing a transition or behind someone speaking isn’t the ideal time to keep myself musically stimulated, explore new harmonic progressions, try out strange melodic jumps, or wander aimlessly up and down the keyboard (or guitar neck).
3. Music that’s overly familiar. I know people mean well when they’re playing a well known song behind someone praying, but I keep having to avoid a train wreck in my mind as the lyrics collide with the words of the speaker.
4. Music that’s out of tune or badly played. I put these together because they’re so similar. It can be immensely distracting to have guitarist picking a simple pattern when the B string is almost a half step flat. Painful might be a better word. The same goes for when a keyboardist regularly hits wrong notes, or is trying to figure out what to play as he/she goes along.
5. Music that’s inappropriate. Happy music behind a prayer of repentance. Lethargic music behind passionate proclamation. Busy music behind anything.

If I’m in a congregation and I find the music distracting (for whatever reason), I’ll ask God to help me focus more intently on what’s being said. Then I might verbalize responses (“amen”) to help me focus on it more directly. If it’s an ongoing problem in my church, I’d talk to one of the leaders or pastors about it and suggest some solutions. Hey, you could even show them this blog post.

If I’m one of the music-makers, a few thoughts help me play in a way that’s not distracting.

1. When playing behind someone speaking, listen more to the speaker than to what you’re playing.
2. Allow spaces in what you’re playing for the speaker to be heard.
3. Use music to support truth rather than supplant it.
4. Play chord progressions that are relatively simple and repetitive. E.g., the last harmonic progression of the previous song, a progression from within that song, a chord pattern from the next song, or an unrelated progression (C-F-C-F)
5. It can sometimes be less distracting to move to the tempo and key of the next song while someone’s speaking rather than when they finish.
6. Play a non-rhythmic progression that reflects and supports the content being shared.
7. And perhaps most importantly, don’t assume you have to play anything at all. We should be comfortable with and even appreciate transitions and spoken words that stand on their own.

If you’re interested,  I’ll be covering this topic and much more in the pre-conference piano workshop this year at WorshipGod11: The Gathering. If you’re thinking of coming, remember that rates go up June 1, and seminars are filling up. You can find out more information on the conference here.

66 Responses to Should We Play Music Behind People Praying?

  1. Donn May 25, 2011 at 3:22 PM #

    I think you stated it well, the approach we should take if we play music behind prayer or speaking. I personally prefer not to
    have music behind prayer or speaking so as not to risk distraction, like you said, and or emotional manipulation.

    Jesus probably didn’t have music behind him when he prayed and spoke. It was probably sheep, donkey, cow noises and the clamor of everyday life. Just kidding.

    • Wayne January 1, 2021 at 2:36 PM #

      For some time now this subject has been on me. I am researching on this. My biggest question is WHY do musicians play even when the preacher is preaching? I don’t understand why. I believe it’s wrong to do so. You already mention it. Its distracting and emotional manipulation. Many love the music more than the Word. People don’t get excited only until the music starts. Am I wrong for thinking this way?

    • Roy Montgomery October 17, 2021 at 3:05 PM #

      I agree with most everything said here except when a person or pastor is praying to God for example praying when dismissing the congregation or praying at the beginning of a sermon or at tithings and offerings and maybe a few other type prayers music should not be played. I believe it is disrespectful to the Holy Spirit.
      Yes prayer and music goes together in praise and worship. A person can pray singing. A person can play an instrument to praise and worship God without praying words only to give praise and glory to God. Music has a lot to do with worship, it was originated in Heaven for worship. There is also a time to pray without music and a time to pray with music. Praying with music is worship and praying for people isn’t but asking God for our needs and leadership.

    • Rob April 3, 2022 at 11:20 AM #

      I strongly disagree. I cannot hear the prayers that the minister is saying. I can’t concentrate on the words or focus on praying. It’s self serving and disrespectful. I’ve watched several churches turn away from God in an attempt to modernize.

      • John April 20, 2023 at 2:42 PM #

        When the music starts I exit.

  2. Bob May 25, 2011 at 4:29 PM #

    I play piano/keyboard, and our senior pastor does like for me to play something behind the response time and while he is praying. I think that I am largely following your suggestions. I do try to select a response song that ties in with the sermon topic, and often decide what the song will be during the sermon. I know enough options that I usually don’t have trouble coming up with one. And definitely keep it simple and quiet so as not to be a distraction.

  3. Peter S May 25, 2011 at 4:36 PM #

    Thanks for addressing this. Our biggest problem tends to be the overly familiar songs being used. Even if it’s a time of corporate silent response, my mind automatically starts “singing” along with the music. Personally, I’d like a little more uncomfortable times of silence while praying if only because our culture is so saturated with music and noise. I don’t think we’re doing it out of anything other than tradition. It’s not to be a mediator or manipulate emotions – just “we’ve always done it”. Kind of like the “someone just sang a solo; therefore, we must clap” mindset we have.

  4. Brian Thornton May 25, 2011 at 5:03 PM #

    For me personally, when background music is playing during prayer I have a hard time focusing on what’s being prayed. Maybe that’s because it is being broadcast too loudly, I don’t know. For me, I find it harder to concentrate because my mind keep jumping from what’s being prayed to what’s being played.

  5. Rob Brock May 25, 2011 at 5:33 PM #

    We generally follow one of two strategies, depending on the context the prayer or speaking.

    If we have a prayer during our song set, I will generally let the speaker pray for a few moments in silence, then I will start softly playing the intro to the next song. Since someone on the worship team is usually praying, they will often use lyrics from the next song in the prayer, and this reinforces the message as we flow into the worship song.

    If we have a prayer or invitation following some sort of decision song, we’ll often vamp on a simple chord progression from the song we just finished, and then roll right back into that song again after the prayer or invitation.

    As an aside, I remember the church organist at my dad’s church when I was growing up would play songs really, really slowly during a prayer. One Sunday, my mom started laughing because she realized the organist was playing “Are you sleeping, are you sleeping, brother John, brother John?”

  6. Rob Still May 25, 2011 at 5:41 PM #

    Excellent , well balanced and very practical article Bob!

    1) I know some folks for whom any music at all underneath speaking is a distraction. God bless ’em.

    2) I agree that “scoring” prayers can be very meaningful if it is played with the sensitivity you suggest, and it’s a beautiful thing when done tastefully.

    3) I think that percussive sounds and playing techniques can make speech harder to understand, so I specifically try to direct musicians to avoid hard percussive attacks when we’re doing the zamar thing. (Zamar – Hebrew word for plucking music on strings)

  7. Eric Olsen May 25, 2011 at 6:18 PM #

    Bob, fantastic thoughts. We were just discussing this this past weekend, and this post provides us with the words we were looking for.


  8. Miller May 25, 2011 at 7:03 PM #

    Isn’t that what songs for worship are? Prayers with music in the background?

  9. Jim Pemberton May 25, 2011 at 7:24 PM #

    An old musical adage comes to mind: “percussion is meant to felt, not heard.” While this is only partially true, it applies to music played behind a prayer: it’s meant to be felt, not heard.

    You also mentioned that the musician(s) providing the background should pay attention to the one speaking. This almost seems too obvious, but I know that many musicians haven’t felt this way. Church musicians are too accustomed to preparing for the next thing while corporate prayer is happening. However, why would anyone want a musician providing an auditory undercurrent for corporate prayer who is not himself participating in the prayer?

    Finally, a principle of not being distracting can be applied to other things going on in the church. As a church musician, I sometimes am called on to fill in on the sound board. As such, I have much control over how things sound. We have a digital pipe organ in our orchestra and it is usually the instruments that we use to provide background music. We route part of its output through the sound system so it can be appropriately mixed. Registrations with mixtures at lower-than-natural intensities can sound pleasantly ethereal.

    But I would encourage sound techs also to work at getting good EQs and levels for speakers for the room they are in. I’ve occasionally heard bad EQ settings that made it difficult to pay attention to what is being said because the person’s voice is hard to listen to. That doesn’t mean that what is amplified is necessarily unclear or not hot enough, although that can be part of it.

    A frequency range that is out of kilter can be an irritant to some people, particularly in ranges not affected by normal hearing loss. Most of the poor settings I hear are where I hear a monotonous “wah” in the low mids or a similar whine in the upper mids. These are usually wavelengths that resonate easily in most church auditorium sizes. Strong esses that aren’t dealt with can also become a distraction. We have a staff member at church who has a slight speech impediment who is hard to listen to because of his esses that come across on a unique frequency range. I have a special program I use just for him to help people focus on his message rather than his esses.

    But what I find works best is, after analyzing the EQ needs of a speaker, to apply good compression settings to limit dynamic range while making the speaker dynamic within that range. That way speakers who go from the extremes of high excitement and quiet intensity can convey both effectively without hurting ears or making people struggle to hear. Also, it provides speakers who exhibit less dynamic variability with the life their message deserves without putting people to sleep.

  10. Ashley May 25, 2011 at 8:15 PM #

    Sometimes when there is music behind a prayer, etc., it almost seems to be a soundtrack. It occurs to me that we are a very entertainment driven culture, and also that we don’t want to do just one thing at a time. This is not really a criticism of playing music behind prayer, but sometimes it might be easier to focus on the prayer if that is the only thing happening! Just a thought…

  11. Kathy Tucker May 25, 2011 at 10:45 PM #

    In regards to prayer “after the meeting is over” I think music important to help those who are encountering God to stay focused and linger. Silence says “time to pick up your stuff and go home”.

    That being said, as a person whose hearing is poor, I cannot hear over the music to ask pastors or others questions up front after the meeting standing in front of the speakers. Frequently they blast CD’s during this time. I can honestly say I’ve almost never heard what they’ve said. If a woman is speaking to me, I’ve missed it 100% of the time.

    I like some of those very quiet, peaceful classical guitar sounding CD’s while people are talking. It kind of masks your personal conversation a little, but you can talk over it.

    Regarding poorly playing musician. I think worship leaders unintentionally put musicians on the spot that don’t actually have the skills to improvise spontaneously and that’s why that happens. Know your band.

  12. Phil Taylor May 26, 2011 at 7:37 AM #

    It is never right in the UK. Maybe in America it is okay. But here it just smells like someone is up to something not quite fully disclosed.

    • Adam March 27, 2020 at 11:59 AM #

      YES. I totally feel the same. I come from a Mormon background and converted to Christianity a number of years back. Some of the American Christian culture seems odd to me, this being one of them. Why is music needed behind prayers at all? It seems emotionally manipulative – though I know that is not what is strictly intended.

  13. Jeff Fuller May 26, 2011 at 9:52 AM #

    We generally pray four or five times during our order of worship and each prayer generally lasts for 2 to 5 minutes. For us, that would be a lot of repetitive background noise if we filled that time with music.

    I don’t think the same would be true for churches who generally pray much less when they gather, and for those who pray during a transition from a hymn to some other aspect of worship.

  14. Patti May 26, 2011 at 4:34 PM #

    I’m so glad to see this being considered and discussed. Soft (very soft) music, when someone else is praying aloud, doesn’t seem to bother me. But, when it’s time to pray silently, as in those “searching your heart” moments prior to taking the Lord’s Supper, I find even very soft music hugely distracting. I have had to actually quietly excuse myself and go into the ladies’ room to focus and pray. I may just have some kind of adult attention deficit, but who knows? Can’t we just be still and quiet before the Lord at times when we come together to worship Him, and let the Holy Spirit lead our thoughts and direct our prayers?

    • Irish Daniels October 13, 2014 at 3:10 PM #

      I never new people played music while praying until I moved to California I joined this church and they play cd’s while praying and they be talking and it be hard to focus on your prayer I don’t like it when they play music when it is pray time..

  15. Jeff Bourque May 26, 2011 at 7:09 PM #

    You ever tried to tune a B string, Bob?

    • Bob Kauflin May 27, 2011 at 4:00 AM #

      Jeff, I’ve tuned a B string, but it was on a Steinway. Different matter altogether.

  16. Tom May 28, 2011 at 1:35 AM #

    Musical doodling behind prayer? Hey musicians, get over it – it’s a distraction, musical ego-tripping, American culture tramping over the quiet call of the Sprirt the vast majority of the time. Please spare us.

  17. Kim May 28, 2011 at 2:37 PM #

    Music is really comforting when applied as Bob mentions. I find it much needed sometimes to drown out the volume of unnecessary Sunday conversations in the sanctuary.. and helps me focus on hearing from God and through the Spirit. Thanks Bob for sharing on this topic! : )

  18. Jay May 29, 2011 at 4:48 AM #

    Perhaps this comes under badly played, but don’t forget the times that the music is too simple! You know those gadgets that are supposed to drive vermin from your house with frequencies we cannot hear? I feel like those vermin when someone leans on the keyboard while the pastor talks, (at his request). It used to be one note, or two, for 20 minutes or more. On the new keyboard, there seems to be a switch to provide canned background irritation. …Quiet, please!

  19. Jaygh May 30, 2011 at 9:51 AM #

    Hey thanks Bob that was a great post..
    I think you take quite a balanced approach.
    It’s also quite interesting to see different perspectives (UK,America)..

    I guess that at all times we need to check what our motives are for what we do/play and how it affects the people we are serving.
    Our motives,because God is no where near as impressed by our skills(or music) as he is impressed by the state of our hearts and on the other hand if even if we have good motives but end up distracting (with ‘bad’ music) or simply drawing attention from God to ‘good’ music… then there’s no point…

    if its not enhancing fellowship with God then cut it ..

    of course there’s the issue of how do to know that it is? that i believe will be the something the musicians and church as a whole should work on determining

    I’ve also noticed it is easy to step out of the service as a musician and become sort of a spectator because we are more concerned with ‘getting the atmosphere just right’ kind of like Mary and Martha

  20. Andre Lefebvre May 31, 2011 at 11:16 AM #

    Well done, Bob… and I also appreciate all the comments here, obviously stemming from invaluable personal experiences…

    I also agree with Kathy about blasting music at the end of the service. A BIG NO NO! It’s like when there is a sweet presence of the Lord at the end of corporate worship and someone jumps on the mic and yells: GOOD MORNING EVERYONE! MY NAME IS PASTOR JOE AND I’M THE YOUTH PASTOR HERE! WELCOME TO OUR CHURCH! NOW TIME FOR THE ANNOUNCEMENTS!”

    Yikes. Seen it happen way too many times. Please allow people to truly experience the Spirit’s brooding over the congregation, speaking to us corporately or individually. It’s usually a “good” thing to linger at that time and tapper out organically rather than driven by schedule. People could remember that as being modeled to them when they have private devotion at home.

    Many sound engineers love to display and “feel” the wonderful new sound system, but it’s wrong to assume that because many people are leaving, that everyone is done their personal dealings with the Lord. God isn’t on the meeting schedule, but is drawn to hearts intents and hunger.

    Can’t agree more about properly tuning your instrument, AND being tuned with the rest of the band, whatever instrument you play. And that also touches imho the use of subwoofers, a very critical support to the overall sound of the room, yet which can actually cause harm if not mastered properly.

    Jay also makes a good point about being performers and spectators. Musicians should share the vulnerability and devotion that they hope to encourage from the congregation.

    Playing skillfully also doesn’t mean to arpeggiate aimlessly.

    I think personally overall a right attitude is about “praying through music”, and that is something that can be developed during private devotion at home, and practice times (you DO have practice times, right? ;O)

    I see musicians in church as minstrels, and sound engineers (dancers and flaggers too) are just as a part of the worship team as other musicians. As the ones who balance the levels and tones, textures, and correct the room defects and quirky trappings, sound engineers create a sonic painting that can either contribute or scatter.

    Transcending technique is important for main instrumentalists, and as you step over into unknown territory, remember that corporately we are joining worship already in progress in heaven, which means pointing attention to Him Who sits on the throne. We have to decrease so that He may increase.

    Sorry for the long comment, and thanks for caring about this topic… there is so much to discuss here. Wish I could make it to the conference… :)



  21. Andre Lefebvre May 31, 2011 at 11:55 AM #

    An addon to my comment:

    Is the music creating an emotional experience only, or is it a catalyst to encountering God, casting our cares upon Him, worshiping Him in the beauty of holiness, are we allowing people to experience worship at a heart level?

    This has been addressed as well, but playing skillfully also doesn’t mean to arpeggiate aimlessly. It is always better to master our instruments or songs enough to transcend technique and focus on spirit.

    I love when dozens or hundreds of people can give room to silence to allow the Spirit of God to be discerned in His still small voice and other manifestations of His presence. Allowing the whole congregation to experience the awkwardness of silence without stepping in to alleviate the discomfort could be a turning point in a gathering, and create a precedent. It is risky but thrilling to step out on a spiritual limb without nets and realize we can walk on waters, so to speak.

    It may take time and focus to strip ourselves of our needs for validation and affirmation, for after a song or two usually we will realize we ourselves have moved on into worship and are enjoying it deeply. Brokenness is part of our human journey, and we bring ours with us every time we gather to pray and worship.

    The church body isn’t our audience, we join them before the throne. As worship team members, our worship times should affect us as well, it is not our music we are offering to God but ourselves.

    Voilà my addon comment…



  22. Benjamin P. Glaser June 1, 2011 at 3:44 PM #

    My question would be how do we divorce “musicians” from being able to worship themselves when we call for them to play during corporate prayers and the Lord’s Supper.

    To be honest here I think a question not being asked is how do we not use music to manipulate the listener into certain emotional responses?

  23. scott mckenzie June 2, 2011 at 9:57 PM #

    I agree with Ben that we need to look to not manipulating. Is it terrible if some parts of our services are quiet? If it’s not the sermon it’s likely that almost every part of the service can have a soundtrack. The pendulum should swing. But perhaps it’s just the circles I’ve grown up in, but I wouldn’t be against some solemnity especially around the Lord’s Table and in the times of prayer.

    • Bob Miner December 13, 2015 at 5:48 PM #

      The pastor speaks to the congregation, sharing God’s Word, using his spiritual gifts of preaching and teaching, allowing the Holy Spirit to make a connection, bring conviction, etc., all without music. Then, as he directs people to a decision, responding to what God has spoken to their hearts and minds, leading them before the throne of God to respond, having been used of God by using his voice, and a wonderful rapport has been established, this uninvited distraction comes in, breaking the bond, causing the hearer to strain to pay attention to what is being said, and often becoming the thing that stops the prayer movement.
      Think about it.
      How many times does the pastor begin preaching before the worship music has ended?
      As an evangelist, it has been my experience to see people have their concentration broken by music beginning as I am leading them in prayer. I have even had people come to me afterwards and tell me so.
      I pray that this may be considered, prayerfully, without egos or a its getting in he way.

  24. scott mckenzie June 2, 2011 at 9:58 PM #

    … I know it’s relevant to have mediating views here but I’d beg to differ.

  25. David Edmisten June 3, 2011 at 9:00 PM #

    Thank you for highlighting the key issue of motivation here. I think often music is played simply because many in our churches, and our culture altogether, can’t seem to handle silence. In a culture of constant stimulus, who is ready to wait quietly before the Lord?

    But so often, our spiritual walk would grow so much if we were simply willing to be still.

  26. Olly Knight June 5, 2011 at 4:30 PM #

    Hi Bob!
    Thanks for sharing this! Really helpful! I come from a church where we very rarely have silence from the instruments during our time of sung worship so it’s good to think through why we go for more of a “flow” and I definitely agree with letting the music support but not dominate the times of prayer!
    Thanks, Olly

  27. Ben June 11, 2011 at 1:00 PM #

    Our culture just can’t handle silence. I think the issue is addressed appropriately in this article, meaning it’s not necessarily wrong to play music behind someone praying. However, why are we afraid of silence (or at least just the sound of a voice alone)? I think the danger here of people thinking a prayer is more powerful or more effective because it has music behind it outweighs the possible benefit of having the music.

    It’s not a matter or right or wrong, but I am not convinced that the benefit is greater than the potential pitfall. Thanks for sharing and getting a good conversation going.

  28. Peter Thorp June 26, 2012 at 5:30 AM #

    A very interesting article, As a PA operator over the 50 years I have worked in the area of Church audio, probably the biggest problem has been missed.
    As our ears get older it is hard to get CLEAR sound to the congregation, building acoustics and background noise/music makes it very hard for the deaf to hear leaving a large portion of the audience shut out from what is being said. Not all churches are fitted with hearing aid loops so we need to be aware of all the listeners needs

  29. Tim June 26, 2012 at 11:08 AM #

    It seems to me that another aspect of this issue is consideration of the person doing the praying. Does that person expect or want music or silence? A team approach to deciding whether or not to play music behind speaking makes sense to me. Great article!

  30. Karst Krinjak June 26, 2012 at 12:24 PM #

    I’ve had this discussion quite often. As the accompanist for a singer, I travel quite a bit, and, more often than not am called upon to play for the prayer meeting wherever we may happen to be on a Sunday. What works for me is to check with the pastor/speaker in advance and wait for the “high sign” if music is desired. I don’t ever want to be a distraction by doing my own thing.

  31. Debi June 26, 2012 at 1:33 PM #

    I play and lead on a rotation basis at our church and this comes up quite often….the reason we started having something soft IN THE BACKGROUND was so that those who were praying at the altar rails had some privacy – people in the front pews wouldn’t be distracted etc. Older people with hearing aids sometimes find it difficult to hear the main prayer if a guitar is playing, but a soft wash on the piano of chords as mentioned works best for us…i agree that familar songs are not appropriate, because for myself I find I’ll hum or sing along in my mind instead of focusing on what is being prayed for.

  32. Cruiz719 June 26, 2012 at 10:18 PM #

    I take prayer time as a chance to create and be inspired by my original music that is soft and does not interfere with the service, but enhanses the prayer time. I would never play during a baptism nor other time. 99% of my congregation reported that they like instrumental music behind the prayer time. My choral director years ago used to play the choral pieces we were about to sing at half-speed (no mattter what) in a lower register on an organ during prayer time, and that ALWAYS helped. I do not personally like collective prayer, and I find myself wandering into my own time of prayer and worship during the collective prayer

  33. Johnny Newman July 10, 2012 at 8:06 PM #

    As a musician, one thing I do to combat the ‘distractiveness’ of music behind prayer is 1) – Do away with consistent rhythm as you mentioned, but also. 2) – Creating ambience & doing away with the attack on the chords. If I’m on guitar, I’ll use significant delay with a volume pedal to create unrhythmic chordal swells. If I’m on the synthesizer, I use or create a patch that has a very slow attack, some delay with the mod wheel controlling the opening/closing of the filter. If you’re fortunate enough to have a analog synthesizer – definitely invest in its capabilities for this purpose!

  34. Mike Dunger July 20, 2012 at 9:09 AM #

    Thanks for addressing this topic. I brought all of these to the table when I approached our music minister about background music.

    An additional issue that Benjamn G brought up is what about the musicians? I walk on both sides of the divide, I am blessed to be able to preach and play, though not in the same service. I know that when I preach, the Holy Spirit often smacks me with message in a way that had never come up in my preparation and prayer before the message. Are we not requiring that our musician(s) “take one for the team” so that WE can have a warm fuzzy feeling during prayer?

    My other comment is the flip side of that: IF you are going to have background music, those playing cannot be influenced by the prayer. I’ve seen instances where the one praying tries to speak louder to be heard over the music, and the musician takes that as a cue to PLAY louder.

  35. Mike Wood March 16, 2013 at 7:36 PM #

    Romans 8:6 says; “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” When I listened to a science documentary on the power of music on the human mind, it started to make more sense to me as to why so many Christians are being influenced in our churches when it comes to music. When I listen to a particular 80’s song – it brings me right back to my first high school dance with my first sweetheart – EVERY time I hear this song, I’m right back in 1984!

    That my friends is the power of music that can trigger memories, moods, or emotions, and we all have them. Music can directly influence our minds in profound ways, in fact ways that can be extremely deceptive in church meetings. All have sinned and all have fallen short of the glory of God… we all struggle to some degree with our mind. Remember in Ephesians the flaming darts?? sent in by the evil one? These flaming darts are thoughts, emotions, memories, negative/positive thoughts, etc.. anything apart from God to distract us from God our minds will do, and as Romans 8:6 says; setting our minds on our flesh is death…

    For one to say music is helpful or useful to get us into the Spirit is like saying we still need training wheels to ride our bikes. I’m not rebuking music during prayer, but it should never be a necessity for any of us of faith in my opinion. If we can’t connect with Christ in our spirit without assistance or crutches like music, I personally would examine myself, and ask the Lord to reveal as to why, or for Him to help me connect in a more real genuine way. I’ve been a musician all my life, my brother, and father were professional players, and I personally would rather do without the music, it is not needed.

    Music is way to influential and powerful on the influence of our minds, and emotions, and thoughts, to be any benefit in prayer. We, are not that strong to overcome our minds, yet! Some will be, many will not. Leave the practice out, it is not Biblical, and not needed.

  36. Luke June 16, 2014 at 12:44 PM #

    “Musically addicted”? That’s silly.

  37. lindsay sriplo June 16, 2014 at 3:12 PM #

    My biggest issue is a difference in opinion from multiple authority figures. My worship leader asks me to start playing as soon as I’m ready but then I’ll get the “look” from my pastor if he’s the one praying/speaking. I try to find a balance but it isn’t always easy esp if I start playing only to find my guitar is out of tune. I do agree that when done right it can help people connect to what’s being said though. But I know I’ve been a distraction more than a help from time to time.

  38. Marco February 1, 2015 at 11:19 AM #

    Thanx for these words, but what I’m interested in, is what the Bible says about this? When God spoke to Moses, to Noah, to David, did they call for a citer man (guitar man ;) to play through while God was speaking?
    Did Jesus need music to create an extra dimension to his message to his disciples and the people in the cities?
    In my church, musicians play during preaching, during praying, even when God speaks through church members through speaking in tongues …
    Where is the silence to listen to God …

  39. andydoerksen September 6, 2015 at 11:22 PM #

    No offense to anyone here, but I must be honest: music during a prayer time is one of THE most annoying things for me in all my years of attending various churches. I am VERY glad it’s not done in my current church. I find it distracting and “gushy.”

    And I think Bob’s key line is that God “doesn’t /need/ music to do his work.” How true! But what this means, among other things, is that instrumental music is _never necessary_ during prayer. And since it’s known to be a distraction (and an annoyance) for at least some people, then the wise thing to do is to avoid it _all_ the time. Because it’s _never_ necessary — while concentration during prayer is _always_ necessary.

    In other words, I would argue that since music is never necessary to undergird prayer, and since prayer always requires concentration — then, /ipso facto/, it turns out to be necessary to avoid it at all times. (Moreover, what’s the focus of the music player(s) during the praying???)

    • Bob Kauflin September 7, 2015 at 2:23 PM #

      Andy, thanks for your thoughts! Because something is never necessary doesn’t meant that it can’t be used for good and the edification of God’s people. Music in movies is a good example. It’s not necessary, but it can be used to support and deepen the impact of what is being seen or said. But I agree that it can be done in a distracting and “gushy” way!

  40. Bob Miner June 19, 2016 at 5:59 PM #

    Music during prayer

    Thank you for your article, your explanations and the opportunity to ‘chime in’, if I may.
    I am a teacher, often do evangelistic work, as well as occasionally filling a pulpit. I would like to share from my perspective and experience.
    When teaching, preaching or evangelizing, I have always found ‘background music’ to be an annoyance, both to me, as well as to many listeners. One who is gifted in communication uses their own changes in cadence, volume, expression and intensity. This is often, if not always, compromised by a musician, very much the same as if I were to stand and quote Scripture or preach while musicians are seeking to be used of the Lord to guide people into worship or praise to God.
    As teaching, preaching or evangelizing is taking place, the unsaved, or less learned, often make a special contact both with the speaker, and with God. The instrument that is being used is the person sharing God’s Word, and they develop a type of bond with the listener. Then, when the transition is taking place, and the person is beginning to pray along with the speaker, a distraction happens that breaks the train of thought and interrupts the connection.
    Now, I am not short handing the ability of the Holy Spirit to work in spite of this, but I have seen it happen, felt it happen, and been told by listeners that it did happen, asking if we can stop that kind of thing!
    Stop and think of all of the learning that you have received, without music in the background. Think of the most important dialogs that have taken place in your life, without music in the background. Think of the times that you wanted to make a most important statement, and asked for undecided attention.
    Many of you may be musicians and you think I don’t get it.
    Most of us are not musicians and have just gotten what I shared.
    Please give this some consideration. Souls, the well-being of them, and perhaps the destiny of them, are at stake.

    • Bob Kauflin June 19, 2016 at 9:06 PM #

      Bob, thanks for the thoughtful comment. I agree in principle with what you shared, but think that music behind speaking can be done tastefully and in a way that truly complements and supports what’s being said. I don’t think speaking NEEDS music, but it can be helpful at times when done well.

      • Robert E. Miner June 19, 2016 at 9:44 PM #

        Bob, Thank you for your reply. I guess I assumed that would be your answer, having read all of the comments, replies, and being that you are a musician. So, I will leave it there.
        I do have a question for you, though:
        Are you a preacher or an evangelist? Just curious.

        • Bob Kauflin June 19, 2016 at 10:50 PM #

          Bob, I love to share the gospel with people but I think my primary gifts lie in building up the church. My burden in this topic is that we not assume that speaking/praying/reading NEEDS music behind it. So I appreciated your comment in that regard.

        • Joseph February 8, 2020 at 11:51 AM #

          I love music but i can’t agree that music is used to accompany a prayer

  41. michaelkeating April 8, 2018 at 12:55 PM #

    This might be the first time I’ve disagreed with Bob on anything. The verses cited seem to be speaking of musicians independently prophesying, not being coupled with a different person speaking. The argument used for playing music while someone is praying could be equally used for playing music throughout the entire sermon.

  42. Loraine Adams July 19, 2019 at 11:42 AM #

    Yesterday, the ministry group played one long note during the time someone prayed. I could hardly stand it. I finally held both ears shut. What is going on, I have heard that before and it is terribly distracting. I will leave the room next time I hear it.

  43. PHIL HALL November 5, 2020 at 9:31 AM #

    I was at a prayer meeting last night where where music was being played, guitar picking a repetitive line. It became to where that was all I could hear and was very distracting. I even tried to cover my ears and stick my fingers in them. I think part of it was the redundancy of playing this 2 to 3 second repetitive note progression

  44. Greg April 16, 2023 at 10:51 AM #

    A non believer that spent time in majority Hindu countries says it seems to be a very common part of worship with Hinduism – another reminds them of a yoga studio – there’s no defense for the way emotional manipulation is being used – defending this would be silly if it wasn’t dangerous – but keep on going with your Hindu like emotionalism

    • Bob Kauflin April 16, 2023 at 5:12 PM #

      Greg, thanks for stopping by. It seems to me you’re making a loose connection to a practice in Hinduism, then establishing a false dichotomy. I don’t think it’s an either/or proposition. Rather, it’s something that can be done badly or well for the good of the church and the glory of God.

  45. Richard Johnson September 17, 2023 at 6:55 PM #

    I for one think that listening to music in the background takes a portion of our attention resulting in a loss or minimal loss of what is being said. If we are to sing use music. If there is prayer or a sermon message where speaking something important, do not use the music. Billy Graham crusade early on started to use music during prayer and the message, and were accused of mood manipulation and ceased immediately. Let the message or prayer create the mood. It seems that playing music during times of the sermon or prayer is a tool to “soften” the conviction of the sinners heart.

    • Bob Kauflin September 22, 2023 at 9:36 AM #

      Thanks for the comment, Richard. It’s true that music can be used for manipulation. But is it always manipulative? How do you explain what happened in 2 Kings 3:14-15: “And Elisha said, “As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, were it not that I have regard for Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would neither look at you nor see you. But now bring me a musician.” And when the musician played, the hand of the LORD came upon him.” Or 1 Sam. 16:23: “And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him.” It seems that God can use music to soften hearts to enable them to listen more attentively or receptively to what’s being said. Although, as I mentioned in the post, it can be done badly and isn’t essential to God speaking to us!


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